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Interrogative determiners: 'which' and 'what'

Level: intermediate

The interrogative determiners are which and what.

which is a specific determiner

Here are three books. Which book do you think is the most interesting?
They have four boys. Which boy is the oldest?
I can’t remember which house Janet lives in.
Which restaurant did you go to?

 

what is a general determiner

What food do you like?
I don’t know what job she does.

Interrogative determiners 1

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Interrogative determiners 2

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Comments

Dear Sir
Which school did you go to?
What school did you go to?
According to your lesson second one is correct not the first. I am I right
but not the first. Would you please explain a bit more about this
Thank you.

Dear andrew,

'which' is used when you have a limited number of options in mind. These options are clear from the context. 'what' is used when you don't have any options in mind. For example, imagine we'd just begun talking about university education; I would ask 'What university did you go to?' if we hadn't yet discussed any specific universities. On the other hand, if you told me that you had studied in Boston, I would probably ask 'Which university did you go to?' since there are a limited number of universities in Boston. As you can see, the context is key.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Ivanka,

Thanks very much for your kind comment! All of us on the LearnEnglish Team do this because we enjoy it, but of course it's always nice to hear appreciative comments like yours! I'm so glad that you find LearnEnglish useful and wish you the best.

Best regards,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello everyone

I got confused with one of the examples. I don't understand clearly why it's not correcto to use "which" to ask about the university they went. It's not similar to ask about the restaurant?

Thanks in advanced for your help

Hello Diana,

Actually, you could use 'which' as well to ask about the university if there was a group of universities you'd been speaking about. For example, if I just met you, I would probably use 'what' to ask this question, as there would be no context. If, however, we met and then I asked you how many universities there were in your city and what their names were, 'which' would make more sense in the same question.

The same would be true of restaurants or anything else. It's not indicated, but the sentence above with 'which restaurant' supposes that the context was speaking about restaurants.

If you have any more questions about this, please let us know.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

This is correct sentence about "which" as given below:
1.This is plus point for the children which they can fulfil their needs.

Hello Mohsin Abbas,

No, that sentence is not correct. Without knowing the exact context it is hard for me to be sure what the correct sentence should be, but I would guess one of these is what you need:

This is a plus point for the children, who can fulfil their needs.

This is a plus point for the children, which enables them to fulfil their needs.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

so good

Hello teachers! Should I use "how" or "what" in this sentence: "She never tells us _______ she feels." I feel it should be "how" more than "what" but the more I think about it, the less sure I am. Is it idiomatic? Or does it depend on the verb?
1. She never tells us how she feels.
2. She never tells us what she thinks.

Hello Kurin,

Both 'how' and 'what' are possible here. It does depend somewhat on the verb. When we use 'feel' we can can say 'how' or 'what', but when we use 'think' we can only use 'what'.

This is not a question of idiomatic meaning but rather collocation - which words go with other words in common use. Just as we usually say 'heavy rain' rather than 'strong rain' but 'strong wind' rather than 'heavy wind', so we use 'how' and 'what' as described above.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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